My grandmother (aka – Gammy) and stepmom (aka – Mystie) run a talent agency in Atlanta (Houghton Talent), and I remember discussing the reality show explosion with them a few years ago over a meal. They pulled back the curtain for me and explained that even though the show is a “reality” show, it will have a heavily scripted side to it that you never see. In other words, what they were telling me was that in reality, it wasn’t reality at all. So, as I watch several different reality shows, I do pick up on the scripted parts of the show from time to time.
Last year my wife and I were introduced to a show by the name Duck Dynasty. We both had been hearing a buzz about the show (complete with quotes from a bearded guy named Si), but in my non-conformist ways, I refused to watch it or pay much attention to it. So, one day my wife and I actually decided to give it a shot. We were immediately hooked. Since I love the outdoors (hunting and fishing) – the show was right up our alley. Furthermore, we appreciated the way each show ended with a prayer. From the very beginning, the show was a hit in our home. My wife and I get a bowl of ice cream on Wednesday nights after we put the kids to bed and watch the latest Duck Dynasty episode.
For those who don’t know about this show, it’s a reality show based on the family and business of the Robertson family. Phil Robertson invented a successful duck call years ago, and now his sons run the company. They work together, hunt together, and the show is a combination of business, recreation, and family. This season has been a bit of a disappointment to us. We both feel that the show has way too much scripted parts in it when compared to last season. But, that has not prevented us from watching – and laughing! From Si’s crazy vocabulary to Mountain Man’s slow speech – we find ourselves laughing at the simple and clean humor produced in the show.
A few weeks ago, I was sent a link to one of Phil Robertson’s sermons on Youtube. The link was a short clip of him preaching. I was excited at first and watched it a few different times. After a few days, I was sent another clip to Willie (the son of Phil and CEO of the company) speaking about the gospel. I paid more attention to this clip and watched it several more times. As I listened to the words more intently, I could hear a doctrine being taught that violates the gospel of Jesus Christ.
First Things First:
I appreciate Duck Dynasty for obvious reasons stated above, especially their commitment to clean humor in a day where that is about as rare as spotting a white deer in the woods (aka – Piebald Deer). The show emphasizes a close family which is another rare thing in our disconnected family units today. I also appreciate the fact that they demonstrate the spirit of America – a hard working (well – when you overlook Si and a few others in the mix), inventive, motivated, driven, business minded group of men who have found a way to be successful through something they enjoy in life. Furthermore, my wife and I will continue to watch (and laugh frequently) Duck Dynasty.
Down to Business:
These two clips show Phil and Willie describing salvation and how a person is saved. While I would like to discuss in more detail the way the church is to baptize new believers and the fact that baptism, like the Lord’s Supper, is an ordinance of the church rather than a private matter, I will save that for another day. The point I want to emphasize is much more important. It deals with how a person is saved by Jesus Christ.
The danger of the Duck Dynasty gospel is that it comes from their background and influence of the Church of Christ movement. The Church of Christ doctrine is centered heavily upon “baptismal regeneration” – the teaching that baptism is necessary for salvation. For instance, the following statement on “How to Receive Salvation” is taken from a local Church of Christ website:
The Bible teaches that a person receives God’s grace by putting faith in Christ, repenting of sin, publically confessing Christ, and being immersed or baptized into Christ (Luke 24:45-47; Acts 2:36-41; Romans 1:16-17; Romans 6:1-7; Romans 10:9-10; Galatians 3:26-27).
If you examine the paragraph closely, you see that they have linked baptism with salvation. This is the foundational belief system of the Church of Christ. I examined the White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ (where the Robertson family attends church) to see a statement of their doctrinal beliefs, but they didn’t have one posted. However, both Phil and Willie use the language of “baptizing someone into Christ” in their videos. In fact, some Church of Christ congregations insist that a person’s baptism is not valid unless it’s performed through a Church of Christ assembly.
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Baptismal regeneration is the belief that a person does not receive the Holy Spirit and the transaction of justification is not fully made until the act of baptism is completed. This is why the people who believe this doctrine baptize a person immediately after they repent, because faith alone in Jesus Christ is not enough for their salvation. According to The Christian Chronicle, Phil has been known to baptize people in the middle of the night after leading them to Christ. A close examination of the words of Phil and Willie seem to indicate that they embrace the doctrine of baptismal regeneration – a doctrine that clearly violates the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Salvation is not based on any work that we do, and the Scriptures are clear on that fact. Ephesians 2:8-9 reveal that we are saved by God’s grace through faith, not baptism. In fact, Ephesians 2:8-9 describes the reality that if our salvation was based on works that we performed, we would likely boast about it. Therefore, in genuine salvation, we are unable to boast about anything because Jesus paid it all, God did the drawing work of conviction, and we were led to a state of humble repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
The misinterpretation of verses that have baptism included in the scene of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ have led to the building of a false gospel. The great transaction and exchange does not include us offering our baptism to God for mercy. It involves God saving us through Jesus’ blood alone. The exchange is whereby God placed on Jesus our sins on the cross and He provides us with the righteousness of His Son by faith alone.
Why did the early disciples baptize almost immediately? In the book of Acts, we see people being baptized where no church existed. This was the case with the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8). In other places in Acts, you see a very small number of believers in each city who are likely present when the new believer is baptized. Much of what we see in the book of Acts is the building and organizing of the church rather than a set structure of how things operate. By the time you get to the Epistles, things have started to become settled, in place, and organized by the Holy Spirit. However, it is clear, baptism is commanded as an ordinance of the church rather than a means of redemption. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are both commanded, but neither of them are able to save a person. Jesus’ blood is sufficient.
What’s the difference? The two ordinances are commanded in the Scriptures, but they are not linked to a person’s salvation. They are evidences of a person’s salvation and they are means of communion with God and fellow believers, but they are not in any way part of the salvation equation. If salvation included baptism, Jesus would have rejected the thief on the cross who hung next to Him due to the inability to be baptized. If one believes in baptismal regeneration and insists that a special case was given to the thief, we have an inconsistent God. The fact is – sinners are not saved in multiple different ways. There is one way (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) – and our God is immutable.
In conclusion, I want to say that I like the Robertson family and their show Duck Dynasty. I appreciate their commitment and desire to produce a clean and humorous show for the family. I do, however, disagree with their gospel. I don’t enjoy calling out guys that I like, but I must speak up when someone alters the gospel that I preach. The apostle Paul said, “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them” (Rom. 16:17). When I see professing Christians posting videos of Phil and Willie preaching on Facebook and linking to them on Twitter and approving their gospel, it becomes necessary to distinguish between the gospel of Jesus Christ and the gospel of Duck Dynasty.
A man who knows that he is saved by believing in Christ does not, when he is baptized, lift his baptism into a saving ordinance. In fact, he is the very best protester against that mistake, because he holds that he has no right to be baptized until he is saved. — C.H. Spurgeon (Baptismal Regeneration, sermon 10.326)
Pastor Josh Buice
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For more on the subject of baptismal regeneration – click here.